Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Indie Publisher’s Toolbox – Part 3: Social Media

By Ray Flynt

Part of the Indie Author Series

Thus far we’ve examined an author’s website, blogs, and an author’s newsletter.

The toolbox analogy is apt because, although you may think of yourself as a writer, you still need to build your audience. To be cliché, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will you reach your full sales potential overnight. It’s a process. At times, it may seem like two steps forward and one backward.

My first published book (before becoming an indie author) was a hardcover priced at $25.95. I joked that you couldn’t get relatives to pay that much for a book. Readers who willingly shell out nearly $30 for the latest Danielle Steele or James Patterson, might be less likely to take a chance on an unknown author.

With indie publishing and the growing popularity of ebooks (despite how mainstream publishers downplay the success of ebooks) we have the opportunity to affordably price our work. However, reading is an endeavor that takes time. People may be willing to invest $3.99 in a 280 page science fiction novel, but will they spend the six to eight hours of time required to read it?

With these posts, we aren’t prescribing what you have to do, simply to highlight best practices. We want to hear from you. Please share what has worked or what challenges you’ve had. NOTE: Most indie publishers have a day job. They get up early or work into the wee hours of the morning to crank out stories. Writing the best book you can is daunting enough, but to better position yourself for future sales, you need to determine which of the elements in this toolbox will be most helpful.

Our topic for today is SOCIAL MEDIA.

I researched top-selling living authors (men and women, writing in a variety of genres) to see what social media they use. Here are the top three (drum roll please):
 Although not part of my original search, did you know that Agatha Christie has an Instagram account? She died in 1976. Lesson: Even dead people understand the value of social media (grin).

Only one of the authors I researched provided a link from their website to Goodreads, which seems like a natural place to connect with those who enjoy reading.

If you’re using a different social media site to promote your work than the ones cited above, please share your experience in the comments. It’s easy to see the significance of social media by the fact that there are NEW sites developing constantly. Just as broadcast media has evolved over the years (I grew up with four available networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS), not only did we see more networks, we also learned the concept of narrowcasting as a way to appeal to a niche audience. We can expect the same thing to happen in social media. So if you’re a fantasy writer with a focus on the dwarf lifestyle in a different galaxy, it might not be long until a social media site is created for persons with like-minded interests.

We won’t get into the technical weeds of social media sites, but rather discuss how best to approach using those sites to your advantage.

First, think of social media as a community.

If you moved into a brand new community and immediately erected a billboard in front of your house saying, “I’m a writer – buy my book,” I’m willing to bet that the neighbors might take up a petition to tear down the billboard.

Approach social media in a neighborly manner. Make a good first impression. You don’t want to turn people off before you get a chance to turn them on.

When you first sign up with Facebook, it provides an opportunity to search your email contact list to see if others you already know are using Facebook and allows you to invite them to be friends. How many of you have seen a different side of those persons via social media than impressions you formed from your prior interactions? The question is rhetorical, intended to sensitize your own thinking about what you post on social media.

With Halloween behind us, think about your approach to those costumed visitors. Did you turn on your lights, make the place look welcoming, place a carved pumpkin on the front stoop? All of those made an impression, and helped determine who felt comfortable in approaching your front door. The way you present yourself on social media accomplishes the same thing.

Second, what do you want people to know about you?

Using Facebook as an example, this may be one of the key reasons to distinguish between a regular Facebook page and creating a separate “author page.” Discussing your spouse, kids, how much you spent on recent car repairs, dreading the upcoming visit of the in-laws, and the mess the dog made when he barfed on the living room rug, may all be things you don’t mind sharing with close friends and family.

On an author’s page, you can provide as big a window into personal life as you prefer, but fans of your books might want to learn more about your writing process, where you get ideas, when your new book will come out, where you are making personal appearances, and what you enjoy from other authors. A sense of humor is good.

It never hurts to be generous with your comments about others. “I spent the weekend reading a great book by _____.” Will your friends buy that book instead of yours? Even if they do and enjoy it, they’ll know you have great taste in books… and maybe yours are worth reading too.

Posts you like and share give readers a fuller sense of what YOU value.

Third, why is social media so important?

For indie authors, the number one reason more people are going to read your books is on a recommendation from others. This is why positive comments or the willingness of others to share your posts is so valuable.

Yes, there are marketing strategies you can employ to get your writing into the hands of readers (giveaways, posting previews, etc.). Ultimately, you want positive word of mouth.

As always, entire books have been written about social media and its value for authors. We’re just scratching the surface and, hopefully, re-awakening your interest in pursuing it further.

Good luck!

Once again, if you have questions about social media ask in the comments below. Feel free to share your own social media best practices – or cautionary tales.

Ray Flynt authors two series: Brad Frame mysteries, and one featuring journalist Ryan Caldwell. He’s also written a political suspense, KISSES OF AN ENEMY. A native of Pennsylvania, Ray wrote and performs a one-man play based on the life of Ben Franklin. Ray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and active with their Florida Chapter. He is a life member of the Florida Writers Association. Ray retired from a diverse career in criminal justice, education, the arts, and human services.

Website | Goodreads |

About Unforgiving Shadows

Brad Frame lived a serene but aimless existence on Philadelphia’s Main Line until his mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered.

The tragedy transformed his life.

After helping the police catch their killers, and with the aid of his mentor, Philadelphia Detective Nick Argostino, Brad opened his own private detective agency vowing to help bring justice to others whose lives had been turned upside down.

Eleven years later, Brad is invited to the execution by lethal injection of Frank Wilkie, one of two men responsible for the death of his mother and sister.

Thinking that Wilkie might have something to say, Brad reluctantly attends. Wilkie remains silent, but as Brad exits the prison the chaplain races after him, thrusting the condemned man’s Bible into his hands.

Within hours another man is anxious to get his hands on Wilkie’s Bible, and Brad suspects the motivation could involve the still-missing ransom money.

But as the reason becomes clear, Brad’s world is once again turned upside down. Aided by his associate, Sharon Porter, Brad unravels an eleven-year-old mystery that casts new suspicion on family, neighbors and business associates alike.

UNFORGIVING SHADOWS is the first book in the successful Brad Frame Mystery Series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie Bound


  1. The most important lesson I've found from a number of workshops and classes is that 80% of what you do on SM should be "engagement" to get people to know and trust you. Only 20% should be "selling" type posts. Also, pick the one platform you're comfortable with and (after confirming your reading audience is there) and don't worry about the rest. Social media doesn't do much to sell books, but it's step one in audience building.

  2. Thanks, Terry! I guess the more that people feel like they know you the more likely they are to - eventually - invest the time and money in reading your books.

  3. Thanks, Terry! I guess the more that people feel like they know you the more likely they are to - eventually - invest the time and money in reading your books.